ISLAMABAD/LAHORE – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday freed a Christian woman from a death sentence for blasphemy against Islam and overturned her conviction, sparking angry protests and death threats from an ultra-Islamist party and cheers from human rights advocates.
Since 2010, Asia Bibi, a mother-of-four, was in prison in death row, when she became the first woman to be sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, which critics say are too harsh and often misused.
She allegedly made derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.
Bibi has always denied committing blasphemy. The case caused an outrage amongst Christian’s around the world.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, who headed a special three-judge bench set up for the appeal, said their decision was based on Koran writing that “tolerance is the basic principle of Islam” and noting the religion condemns injustice and oppression.
Bibi lawyer called the court ruling “great news” for Pakistan.
“Asia Bibi has finally been served justice,” lawyer Saiful Mulook told Reuters. “Pakistan’s Supreme Court must be appreciated that it upheld the law of the land and didn’t succumb to any pressure.”
Supporters of Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) immediately hit out at the decision, and on Wednesday’s they blocked roads in major cities, pelting police with stones in the eastern city of Lahore.One of the TLP’s top leaders called for the death of Nisar, the chief justice, and the two other judges on the panel.
“They all three deserve to be killed. Either their security should kill them, their driver kill them, or their cook kill them,” TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri told a protest in Lahore.
“Whoever, who has got any access to them, kill them before the evening.”
Photo credits- AP and The International Humanist and Ethical Union